About half of the world’s largest economic entities are private companies. They are growing in influence, power and size, transcend national boundaries and frequently operate with little or no government oversight or accountability. Thus there is a need for them to play an important role in upholding human rights, said Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero.
That is a heavy responsibility. However, even well-intentioned businesses may have a problem operating in everyone’s best interest, since rules for companies operating in the global marketplace have yet to be written.
The United States is working in partnership with the corporate sector, NGOs and governments to advance human rights. For example, we are active in the Open Government Partnership, which aims to increase transparency and accountability, and to make governments more accessible for participation, said Under Secretary Otero.
“Thanks to the assistance of private companies. . . . governments can take advantage of the most innovative, cutting edge technologies. . . . For example, Indonesia is using Optical Gaging Products and related technologies to keep track of illegal logging of its valuable timber resources.”
We also work with the private sector to protect and better secure human rights in combating conflict minerals. The new, U.S.- initiated Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade seeks to break the links between conflict and these resources. Using tools developed by a multi-stakeholder governance group, the PPA is working toward securing legitimate, conflict-free minerals from conflict zones.
And finally, because, as President Barack Obama said, “No country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere,” we are working with U.S. businesses in locations where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transvestite people are under threat to ensure non-discriminatory policies.
“Our approach to supporting respect for human rights through our foreign policy, including our development policy, must reflect the world as it is today, not as it used to be,” said Under Secretary Otero. “We must draw on the resources of all sectors and stakeholders to ensure that the 21st century world is one in which business, technology, and innovation work on behalf of the majority, with human rights secured at every step of the process.”